Southampton look down as Marcus Tavernier adds to the pain

Southampton look down as Marcus Tavernier adds to the pain - Getty Images/Matt Watson

It is starting to feel like the end times for Southampton in the Premier League. Bournemouth won the battle of south coast neighbours, the doomed harboring the endangered, with the shot ably taken by Marcus Tavernier early in the second half.

This was Southampton’s season in 90 minutes. Poor and panic-haunted in defence, second-best in midfield – even before James Ward-Prowse was retired with a sore throat at half-time – and toothless in attack. They already seem to be accepting relegation, as are their fans, who have headed for the exit well before the final whistle.

However, when that whistle blew some of those who remained confronted Toby Steele before the chief executive, whose departure was announced on 20 April, was ushered away by a steward. When Southampton finally managed a consistent attack in the 1990sth minute, Che Adams turned over and scored, only for the VAR to notice he was offside. Southampton have now lost a record 11 home league games.

“It’s consistency,” said Ruben Selles, the Southampton manager. “The process worked against Arsenal and Manchester United, but it didn’t work tonight when everything went against us from injuries to Romain Perraud and Ward-Prowse to offside. The ranking seems difficult but we will try to win until the end. We can’t do more, but fight to the last point.”

Southampton conspicuously lack what their smaller neighbors have displayed in abundance: wit, excessive leadership and cohesion. Bournemouth had a clear plan, but they also had the flexibility to change tack and now have an unprecedented three consecutive away wins in the Premier League.

Marcus Tavernier celebrates his first goal with Ryan Christie - Reuters/Matthew Childs
Marcus Tavernier celebrates his first goal with Ryan Christie – Reuters/Matthew Childs

Rain poured down, a flare was fired onto the pitch by host support and play initially went to a slow boil as both teams clashed, driven by fears of what might happen in May.

The frenzy dissipated around the half hour mark, but Southampton’s disorganization did not and differences between the teams emerged. Southampton were scared; Bournemouth were fearless, even when their pressure as the home side foolishly attempted to play the ball outside the defense multiplied that fear.

With Dominic Solanke an instrument of terror and Joe Rothwell a midfield juggernaut, Bournemouth were spirited, let down only by their tendency to play too much around the home goal. Without their leader, Southampton were broken five minutes into the second half as Tavernier came on, danced around Duje Caleta-Car’s deplorable fake challenge and curled the ball around Alex McCarthy’s dive for his fifth of the season . Southampton was broken.

“We don’t lack leaders and no one was afraid,” Selles retorted. “They are eager to play. How can you be afraid to play in front of your own fans?

“What’s happening,” O’Neil explained, “is that our players are seeing what the coaches say is going to happen in games that are actually happening. Southampton persisted as we thought, so there were no surprises. This builds trust, but there will be no celebrations tonight. There is no rest here. Mind you, I believe that if we win all five remaining games, we will be safe.

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